Auckland's hidden secrets are waiting to be discovered, writes Maggie Wicks
Auckland: it's a jungle out there. One of wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, historic tombstones, volcanic trails, and adrenalin-loaded adventure. The nation's largest city has a natural wild side just waiting to be explored.
The urban waterfall
A six-metre-high waterfall, cascading into a pool of water surrounded by gently sloping grass and bush paths - this is Te Auaunga, Oakley Creek, and its impressive waterfall. Nestled in the greenways between Waterview and Mt Albert, this hidden oasis of green is a secret spot frequented by runners, wanderers, dog walkers, and students taking a shortcut from Unitec each day.
Joining from the Waterview end, the track to the falls winds its way through the bush, across little wooden bridges and alongside Oakley Creek itself - you'll find the waterfall about halfway along the path. If you continue to the end, you'll also discover the delights of the Auckland Bee Club, and the beautiful Mahi Whenua sanctuary, a community garden, at the end.
Canyoning in West Auckland
The Piha canyon is a volcanic rock formation filled with waterfalls and bush, edging its way towards the ocean. Strap in with Awol Adventures and lower yourself down 40m over the spectacular three-tiered Kitekite Falls. There are caves to explore, rocks to jump from, and hidden swimming holes to discover. The Waitākeres were once covered in giant kauri trees, and the canyon was used to flush logs of kauri down the river - look out for some of those logs still embedded in the canyon today, and use the boot-cleaning stations to be sure to protect the kauri that remain.
Symonds Street cemetery
One of Auckland's most beautiful walks takes visitors through an important piece of the city's history. Opened in 1841, this is Auckland's oldest city graveyard, and a walk along its rambling paths is a unique way to explore the city and its past. You wouldn't know it from the bustling restaurants and bars of Karangahape Rd on its doorstep, but at the time the area was bush-clad, with the emerging Auckland city almost one mile away.
These days, the cemetery is in a state of beautiful disarray, with heritage roses growing over graves, and tree roots creating cracks in the paths. There are exotic trees such as oak and Italian cypress. You can wander the flatter sections behind K Rd, or take the path down through the gully on the Symonds St side (the cemetery was split in two by the motorway development in the 1960s, and large sections were lost; more than 2000 graves were disturbed in the process.)
The cemetery is divided into denominational areas (the Presbyterians were said to be disappointed with their section, claiming it had the least favourable views), and Auckland Council has a number of useful guides and trails for each section on their website, including a kids' walk and a guide to some exceptional graves and the people who are buried here.
The Winter Gardens
The Domain in Grafton is Auckland's oldest park - a sprawling 75 acres of green space, gardens and the War Memorial Museum. At its heart is the Winter Garden, where two Victorian-style vaulted glass houses - one full of tropical plants, the other temperate - sit either side of the courtyard with its sunken pool and marble statues. To the back, there is the gorgeous Fernery, an old quarry which now holds hundreds of New Zealand ferns.
The gardens were inspired by the work of garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and architect Edwin Lutyens, who created hundreds of gardens in Britain and around the world. The Winter Gardens have been open to the public since 1913 - visit today to walk among a kaleidoscope of colour, and a living part of our history.
Te Henga Walkway
Te Henga is the incredible clifftop coastal walk running between Bethells and Muriwai beaches. Watch the ever-changing Tasman Sea below you as you climb steep sandy sections and winding trails. As you go, you will pass red clay cliffs and lush Waitākere bush, and you may spot gannets dive-bombing the ocean for their supper.
This is part of the Hillary Trail, the challenging four-day and three-night trail from Titirangi to Muriwai. Although much of the trail is currently inaccessible due to the spread of kauri dieback disease, Te Henga remains open in full.
The path can be walked as a loop track by returning along the beach at low tide, or double back and take the pathway again. Alternatively, you can do a little driving leapfrog, and park at either end.
The full walk takes around three hours one-way, but if it's a shorter outing you're after, the return trip to the top of Raetahinga Point for the stunning ocean views takes less than half the time. Be aware that it can get windy up there, so watch your step and pack a jumper, as well as plenty of water and sunscreen.